Harry Potter: Wizards Unite – Chasing Pokemon GO’s Shadow

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, the latest AR game to come out with the help of Niantic, is trying to chase that golden Pokemon GO dream. It’s trying really, really hard. The thing is, it forgets what actually made Pokemon GO fun.

Wizards Unite (or WU) has you take up the role of a wizard hired by the Ministry of Magic to collect all these Foundables that have escaped and are threatening to reveal their secret! Well, let’s just completely ignore that there’s more than the British wings of magic – I mean, it is named Harry Potter after all – and that this is a worldwide game. Okay, gotten past that part? Okay! Now are you ready to collect Pokemon… I mean foundables? And put them in your Pokedex… I mean registry? And by “put them in” I mean collect their stickers… err, fragments and put those in your sticker book.

Yeah, that’s the main basic concept of WU. Sounds really appealing compared to collecting tons of Pokemon in the world around you, training them up and using them in battle. Oh sorry, there are battles in WU, but you have to either find a “combat” foundable, or do a Fortress (Gym). Collecting pieces of the registry can give you books to level up, but be prepared for a lot of hunting to get anywhere. Which only go so far. Then you need events to get even more specific books to continue leveling.

Here’s the biggest problem WU faces – an information overload. You get so much thrown at you that you then have to figure out and use. Yeah, PoGO has a ton of systems too, but a lot of them feed really well into each other. Collecting Pokemon gives you the resources you need to power up your Pokemon which you then use to battle in gyms, raids, or in trainer battles. There’s stats on the Pokemon which will affect how much damage they do, relevant when you are doing things with only a few people.

In WU, I’ve already forgotten half the stuff they’ve told me. Cast spells by drawing on the screen (glyph hacking from Ingress), got it. I can do that. Anything else? Yeah, the information is gone. And speaking of Ingress, that brings up another point – the game does pull on some systems from Niantic’s “primary” game, namely in the glyphing/spell casting. Which is fine, I like glyph hacking. I just wish WU didn’t have about 20 seconds of animation every. single. time.  you cast a spell.

Then you get to the part where Wizards Unite is desperately trying to chase Pokemon GO’s shadow – the events. There’s already been a Community Day. I checked it out for about 5 minutes before losing interest because, guess what? There’s still way too many animations. It had no where near the draw Pokemon GO’s does, which gives you a chance to get shiny Pokemon, along with an event exclusive move for it’s final evolution(s). In WU you uh… Can catch more of that specific type…? PoGO gives you three hour lures, and a base bonus (¼ Hatch Distance, 3x Catch XP, or 3x Catch Stardust). WU you have to use a potion for that XP bonus, and Dark Detectors (lures) last… twice as long? So an hour? Woo. Yay.

Then there’s the fact they’re already planning a Fan Festival for Wizards Unite. The game will have been two months old when it’s held. It took a year for Pokemon GO to get one, and two years for it to get one that was memorable (you do not speak of the first GO Fest). They’re trying to rush things. To me, that just makes me think they know this game isn’t going to have the same staying power. There’s nothing really in it to give that same staying power.

Also, Wizard Unite’s monetization is absolutely gob-smacking. It’s so blatantly bad. They nickel and dime you for everything. Inventory starts out so limited, and they want a lot of coin to upgrade it. Oh, but there’s a pack deal to upgrade it, but they don’t tell you about it when you go to pick up something with a full inventory. Brew a potion, but can’t hold it? Tough luck, go use one. Sure, you can get coins in game, and they give you some for leveling… But if you want to get anything meaningful, better pony up that cash. Ingress? Only thing I’ve bought was key lockers. A whole $10, just to have extra room without keys in the way. Pokemon GO? Yeah, okay, so I’ve put in more than I should have, but I didn’t need to. You don’t need that 2000 inventory, you can live with lower. Sure, it sucks to not be able to spin a stop because you’re over. At least it’s not like “Your bag is full! GO UPGRADE IT NOW!” every time you spin it, like WU is every time you try to pick up an item with a full inventory.

Maybe I’m being doom-and-gloom. People definitely were following how poorly Pokemon GO’s launch went. Maybe I’m being stubborn about dealing with a minute of animations for every foundable, or about ponying up cash for 10 inventory slots for my ingredients bag. I just don’t see the game lasting past the Northern Hemisphere summer. I don’t see it lasting into the winters parts of the Northern Hemisphere gets, where you’re seeing snow and -30 temps (in either C or F), not with how long everything takes. Not with how anti-car the game tries to be. Well, the good news is, unless you want to unlock portkeys (eggs), you can just plop yourself at a park, sit in the car, and have no care in the world as you have everything you need.

Wizards Unite would need a lot of overhauling in animations and the monetization scheme. Take away the forced AR for Portkey opening. Stop trying to shove in every single thing Pokemon GO did, making it look more and more like a desperate attempt to copy that success. Let it stand on its own, let it do its own thing. Maybe then the game will have a bit more of a chance at lasting success. Oh, and include things outside of Britain. There are other wizardry places!

Yes, I’m aware that Ingress has events similar to Pokemon GO, but GO Fest vs Fan Festival is a much easier comparison, rather than trying to explain events such as anomalies.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go catch some shiny Mudkips and cry in 3x XP as a level 40… (Which would’ve made a whole lot more sense if I’d posted this before the event actually happened, instead of just writing it before.)

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